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© RIA Novosti. Grigoriy Sisoev

The Ded Moroz racket

by at 23/12/2010 21:04

Becoming Ded Moroz – Russia’s incarnation of Father Christmas – is almost a rite of passage for many aspiring actors, but also a fun way of earning enough for some celebratory champagne.


Anatoly Kiselyov, a professional actor and graduate of the Moscow Arts Theatre has been bringing holiday magic to kids since 1975.


“It is not only good financial help for me, but my cup of tea,” he told The Moscow News. “Working at corporate parties is more profitable but I really love going to see kids. When you come to a kid of  2-5 years old you bring a real fairy tale to a kid – older kids are often sceptical about a man who is in it to make money.”


Starting from December 25 prices for Ded Moroz visit – translated literally as Grandfather Frost – rise steeply from 2,000 roubles to 10,000 roubles on New Year’s Eve.


“The busiest time for us is December 31, but the first week of January we are also busy at yolki (New Year’s parties for kids) and home orders,” said Yana, a call-center operator at Stolichnaya Sluzhba Deda Moroza.


The average salary for Ded Moroz is 26,900 roubles ($900), according to joblist.ru, while his granddaughter Snegurochka (or Snow Maiden) earns 7 per cent less. While the differences raises unseasonable debates about gender inequality, employers say that a potential Father Christmas has to look the part.


“For students of theatre schools, working as Ded Moroz is an inevitable step in their career,” said Alexander Popov of Mediana, a recruitment agency for actors. “But if a guy is not tall and has a very young voice we don’t send him as Ded Moroz as more mature actors will be more suitable for this.” He added that they can give actors 10 to 15 orders a day, but the company take a 30 per cent cut of the fees.


The end of the crisis has see more festive fellows recruited for corporate parties.


“Compared to last year the number of vacancies has increased by 24 per cent, and by 41 per cent compared to the crisis of the 2008 New Year,” said Timur Iosebashvili, head of the joblist.ru recruitment portal.


One party can bring in 30,000 roubles for just three hours’ work, but require professional event organising and often special stunts.


In a departure from the tradition of squeezing down the chimney, professional climbers come in through windows. “We have professional climbers working as Ded Moroz – they charge 15,000 roubles for a half hour show,” said Yana of Stolichnaya Sluzhba Deda Moroza.


Even for the best behaved kids there have been reports of Ded Moroz failing to appear for New Year.


Some agencies ask for prepayment at the office online or at a pay terminal, and then don’t send an actor before disappearing in January.


“In the Father Frost business a contract should be signed properly to avoid argument and set some obligations for both sides,” said Oleg Frolov, a lawyer from the Consumers Rights Watchdog Organisation.


Employers say that actors playing Ded Moroz have been known to overdo the Christmas brandy, but those that get drunk are sacked.

 

Seeing red
 
Ded Moroz has seen a change of appearance in recent years from blue to red, making him look more like Father Christmas. And although Coca-Cola is credited with inventing the “red" Santa Claus image, it existed before its famous ad campaign.

Read other articles of the print issue "The Moscow News #74"
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